Jason Day didn’t know if he could play because of a bad back, but the Aussie started and finished strong.
Day, No. 2 in the World Golf Rankings, made an 11-foot eagle putt after hitting a 372-yard drive on the first hole and then birdied five of the last seven holes to defeat Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, 5 and 3, in the second round of Pool Play in the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
“Didn’t really know if I was going to obviously play today,” said Day, who is in command in Group 2 with a 2-0 record. “It was kind of up in the air … A little pain but for the most part pretty good. “I came out fast during the first hole and that was pretty good there.
“I was trying to hit my shots really hard on the range. I was trying to mimic the shots I would hit, to see how my back would react. I’m a little bit surprised I could hit the shots I was able to hit out there.”
Top-ranked Jason Spieth took control of Group 1 with a 5-and-4 victory over Victor Dubuisson of France for his second straight victory and defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland also went to 2-0 in Group 3 by beating Smylie Kaufman, 3 and 1–winning three of the last four holes.
However, to advance McIlroy must beat Kevin Na, who also is 2-0 after a 3-and-2 victory over Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, 3 and 2.
“I guess anytime you come into the match play, you go out there with not no expectations, but you go and you play one match and you try to get through and hopefully you move on to the next, and you try to do the same thing,” said McIlroy, who won the tournament last year at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
“It’s a little bit different tomorrow, knowing that I’m playing Kevin, and you win or you’re heading home. So there probably will be a little bit more intensity tomorrow.”
Bubba Watson bounced back from halving his first match and moved to the top of Group 4 by downing Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, 2 up, with birdies on three of his last four holes, and Adam Scott also moved to 1-0-1 with a 3-and-2 victory over Chris Wood of England but must beat Bill Haas (2-0), who defeated Thomas Pieters of Belgium, 4 and 2, to move on from Group 6.
Top-seeded Patrick Reed went to 2-0 in Group 9 by downing Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, 4-3, but to advance he must beat Phil Mickelson, who also won his second straight match, 1 up over Daniel Berger.
Rickie Fowler stayed alive by halving his match with Scott Piercy, moving to 0-1-1, but must beat Byeong-Hun An of South Korea, who defeated Jason Dufner, 1 up, to have a chance to advance from Group 5.
In the most lopsided match of the day, Zach Johnson trounced Martin Kaymer of Germany, 8 and 6, to take charge in Group 14 at 2-0.